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I am having problems with the su command. I know my password and I am typing it correctly but su indicates authentication failure.

So I checked on the internet and then went into recovery mode and changed my username's password to what I was entering before.

Even now entering the same password on su gives me authentication failure.

Please suggest what am I doing wrong??

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5 Answers 5

up vote 19 down vote accepted

su asks for the root password. Since ubuntu doesn't use a root account, you normally do not have this password set.

To become root use sudo su with your personal password.

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I admit I tend to use sudo bash but your incantation makes me want to use su sudo or maybe su su sudo. –  Jerry Apr 10 '11 at 9:42
Interesting, thank you. –  Jerry Apr 10 '11 at 17:49
sudo su is not the recommended way - use sudo -i instead. –  guntbert Mar 2 '14 at 21:30

su asks for the password of the account you're trying to login. It's usage (simplified):

su username

When omitting username, the username default to root. Since the root password is disabled by default on Ubuntu, no password will be valid. The preferred way to run root commands is not through a su shell, but with sudo as in:

sudo mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt
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The root account in Ubuntu is disabled by default. This is to say that it has no password (which is different from it having a blank password) and no attempt to authenticate with root's password will succeed. Therefore, su or su - will not work.

Instead, use sudo to run a command as root:

sudo command...

If you want a root shell like you get with su, run:

sudo -s

If you want a root shell like you get with su -, run:

sudo -i
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su asks for the root password.

You can set a root password while you're root (by giving sudo su, providing that you are on the sudoers file), by giving the command passwd and setting a new password.

This is not recommend it for various reasons, though.

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In Ubuntu root account is disabled by default. In order to perform root action you can do one of the following

  1. Use sudo with your user password, and you can do everything that root user do.
  2. Use sudo su with your user password to obtain root access
  3. Use sudo passwd with that command are changing the root password, then you can easily access root user using su like other distros (and you can continue to use also sudo).
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